Gymnastics media icon Spencer Barnes has colon cancer — Thoughts from other writers about Barnes

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, May 4, 2024

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This week, the gymnastics community was stunned when GymCastic cohost Spencer Barnes returned to the podcast after a few weeks away and announced he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. 

Barnes runs the website The Balance Beam Situation, an invaluable resource to just about every other gymnastics writer. That’s in part due to the site’s Clickable Code of Points feature, which describes every single skill on all four apparatuses, its history, its value and whether it’s ever been named for an athlete. He’s also a data geek, crunching numbers masterfully for viewers of a sport where titles and medals can come down to thousandths of a point.

But mostly, we come to BBS for Barnes’ sense of humor, which is also well deployed on GymCastic but is at its finest in his liveblogs of both NCAA and elite meets and in his GIF roundups during NCAA season.

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The comments on GymCastic’s broadcast of the show where Barnes announced his diagnosis blew up with support for him. A thread on the /r/Gymnastics subreddit did as well. 

Barnes has asked consumers of his content not to donate money for his care, nor to GymCastic in his honor. He and O’Beirne have said he will continue to draw a salary from GymCastic while undergoing treatment. 

If you want to honor Barnes in other ways, here are a few ideas. (Editor’s note: We at The IX are not medical professionals, so if you want further information or have questions, please consult your doctor or another medical professional you trust.)

Get a colonoscopy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society both recommend that colon cancer screening begin at age 45 for adults with no family history. If you have a family history, talk to your doctor about being screened sooner. If you have any symptoms that feel unusual to you, talk to your doctor. 

And this is important: If you do have a family history of colorectal cancer, screening should begin at age 40 or 10 years before the earliest known incidence of cancer in your relative. That means if you are closely related to someone diagnosed at 40, you should be screened at 30. 

Nationally, the rate of colorectal cancers among people under age 50 has nearly doubled since the early 1990s, according to a 2023 study. In January, the American Cancer Society published a study that found that colorectal cancers are the leading cause of cancer death among men under 50 and the second-most common cause of cancer death among women under 50. 

Colonoscopies can sound scary. But they can save your life. 

Donate blood and blood products

Another medical process, you ask? I ask you to think about the difference between one butterfly needle and cancer treatment. (And I am a person who faints at the sight of both needles and blood pretty regularly.) 

Donating blood, platelets and plasma saves lives, including the lives of many undergoing cancer treatment. Here’s all the information you need to get started

Very often, you can note that you are donating in someone’s honor; this would be a wonderful way to honor Barnes and put some good out into the world. 

Sign up to be an organ donor

This one’s painless! You can sign up here or when you obtain or renew your driver’s license. You can donate up to eight organs. I have personally seen the impact of donated organs for a loved one, and I encourage you all to do your research and sign up barring any medical or religious reasons. 

Another option is signing up to become a bone marrow donor, which you can do through the NMDP. Swab your cheek, send it in, and if you match with someone, you can opt to donate your marrow.  

Support cancer charities with money, time or both

There are many cancer charities, so please do your research. Two stalwart organizations that fight colorectal cancer are the American Cancer Society’s Colon Cancer Foundation and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. As GymCastic likes to say, some people just like to send those organizations free money; other ways to support them include signing up for a 5K that benefits them or raising money through them for a similar event. Check their calendars for events near you.   

Listen to your body

I mentioned this above, but don’t ignore symptoms. That means any symptoms that signal to you that what’s happening isn’t normal. You aren’t wasting a doctor’s time, and you aren’t wasting your own. Get it looked at. 

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Other gym news

College Gym News announced its annual staff awards, profiled new Georgia co-head coach Ryan Roberts, looked back at 2024 and ahead to 2025, and revealed the top leotards of the 2024 season

2025 Worlds will be in Jakarta, Indonesia

The fifth-year announcements are rolling in! This week we’ve got: 

And transfers are happening, too! 

Georgia announced the salaries for its new co-head coaches: $265,000 per year for Ryan Roberts and $340,000 per year for Cecile Canqueteau-Landi. 

Konnor McClain gave an interview to NBC Sports about her return to elite competition this month. 

Amelie Morgan will not return to elite gymnastics for Team Great Britain. 

David Kenwright stepped down as head women’s coach of Team GB. 

Asia D’Amato injured her knee at Euros; it’s rumored to be her ACL. Again. The same one. That would be devastating.  

Kosovo sent its first-ever team to Euros. 

Sweden qualified its first team into the team finals at Euros. 

The Gold Over America Tour, aka the Simone Biles tour, will return after the Olympics this year. The organizers announced the lineup and locations this week. 

Gymnasts from Chad have been training in Madrid with the hopes of qualifying athletes for the Paris Olympics at the African Championship. (The article is in Spanish; if you don’t read Spanish, try Google Translate.) 

I want to dig into this another time, but apparently sports bras that aren’t supportive enough could be linked to ACL injuries?

Five at The IX: Gymnastics writers talk about Spencer Barnes

I asked a few fellow gymnastics journalists for their thoughts on Barnes and his influence, both on other writers and content creators and on the gymternet. Here’s what they said. 

“I’m really proud that we have such a great community who support him. We’ve achieved actual socialism level where he and I can pay each other whether we work or not. I’m so proud of that.”

– Jessica O’Beirne, founder and host, GymCastic

“Before journeying into gymnastics media, I was simply a fan. Spencer’s content was one of the many things I used to help me understand the basics and move into more comfortable territory of being a media person in gymnastics. His influence is heavy in the gymnastics community, and my thoughts and prayers are with him through this journey.” 

– Savanna Wellman, Big 12 and MRGC editor, College Gym News

“Spencer Barnes is the funniest person in the gymnastics media. He also sets the bar annoyingly high as a writer, liveblogger and podcaster. I can’t think of a single person more universally beloved on the gymternet than Spencer.” 

– Blake Ilan, co-founder and co-host, Half In, Half Out

“Spencer has been an invaluable member of the gymnastics community for over a decade, bringing the perfect combination of knowledge and humor to the sport. His expert insight, ability to explain even the most unnecessarily complicated rules in a way casual fans can understand, and entertaining-as-hell liveblogs and GIF recaps have all helped play a part in making the sport more accessible to fans.”

– Lauren Hopkins, founder and editor-in-chief, The Gymternet

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Written by Lela Moore